Alaska wants to get rid of minimum wage exemption for people with disabilities


Alaska is looking to rescission a regulation that has long allowed employers to pay people with disabilities scanty than the state’s minimum wage.

Employers need to apply for a track to pay people with disabilities below Alaska’s $9.80 per hour nadir wage. Now, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development has proposed doing away with that dispensation.

There are only four employers in Alaska that have the trail to use the exemption — Fairbanks Resource Agency, The Arc of Anchorage, Assets Inc., and Threshold Utilities Inc., all of which do work that focuses on people with disabilities — but not all of those actively use it, divulged state labor commissioner Heidi Drygas.

«The idea was it would give a shot in the arm employers who might not otherwise hire persons with disabilities to cost them,» Drygas said. «I do think it was well-intentioned. … We just don’t obtain the evidence that that’s worked very well in practice.»

The release from paying workers with disabilities at least minimum wage has occurred at the federal level since 1938, as part of the Fair Labor Gonfalons Act, and has been part of Alaska regulations since 1978.

Other states possess started to move away from the practice as well, Drygas thought.

«It absolutely undermines the economic security for those employees,» she said. «Nominal wage is minimum for a reason. It’s intended to meet basic needs for breadwinners. And it hasn’t worked out that way. And if the minimum wage doesn’t do that, certainly sub-minimum wage doesn’t.»

Matt Jones, regulatory director of Anchorage nonprofit Assets Inc., said while the organization has the trace and has used it in the past, paying workers with disabilities below minutest wage hasn’t been the practice there for several years.

«We tolerate the change,» he said. «We just strongly believe no one wants their fashion devalued.»

The Arc of Anchorage just this month moved away from the realistically of paying below $9.80 an hour to workers with disabilities, reported Danny Parish, director of supported employment services there.

The Arc is a nonprofit that set outs people with developmental disabilities or mental health issues. Parish ordered one reason the Arc used the wage exemption in the past was that it allowed the codifying to provide support to more people in its job training programs.

«As we’re improving our applications across the board … and making sure that as we are improving all of our efforts, we’re also looking at even-handed standards,» said Stephanie Wheeler, chief operating officer at the Arc.

At Doorway Services Inc., a recycling nonprofit in Kodiak, executive director Stephanie Mason said there isn’t passably money to pay everyone at least minimum wage. Of the 13 people take up there, she said seven have severe physical or mental handicaps.

«We would love to pay our employees minimum wage,» she said. «We have started turn over a completing changes by slightly increasing their hourly rate. Honestly, it’s to get them out of the descendants, get them interacting with the community.»

Dave Fleurant, executive numero uno of the Disability Law Center of Alaska, said allowing pay below minimum wage to people with disabilities hostile encounters with the state’s «employment first» law of 2014. That law says that the end of education is to help people become «gainfully employed in an integrated workplace where individuals with disablements work with and alongside» people without disabilities.

«The time is up for all of these programs that in actuality seem to discriminate against people with disabilities,» he said. «It take cares individuals with disabilities in poverty; it keeps them segregated from association.»

Ric Nelson, a program coordinator with the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Specialized Education, said the exemption was originally created to help people with disabilities rouse work opportunities. But times have changed, he said.

«The elimination of this law discretion make it so that each person that has a job that has a disability ordain be able to earn real wages for doing real work,» Nelson held.

Mason said she understands the criticism of sub-minimum wage as discrimination.

«There are human being out there that are abusing it and paying people at a very, very low assess that is very discriminatory,» she said, «but that’s not what we’re doing here. We’re tiring to pay them as much as we can.»

If the state changed the current regulation, Mason ordered, she would likely need to cut back hours for workers.

If this is something we can drop by drop work our way up to, work on other sources of revenue, we would be happy to concur with that,” she said.

In Alaska, the regulation says that a person being worthwhile below minimum wage generally still needs to make at scant half the minimum wage. Under federal law, Fleurant said, managers «could pay pennies on the dollar.»

Employers could still get federal dispensations that would allow them to pay lower than minimum wage to people with disabilities, ordered Heather Beaty, special assistant to Drygas, in an email. But the U.S. Department of Labor «hand down honor» states that have eliminated the sub-minimum wage by not allowing quiddities in those states to get such waivers, she said.

The state labor part is seeking public comments on the proposed change, and those comments are due Nov. 15. Aside from «major issues» in that commenting period, Drygas said the finishing repeal of the regulation would happen about three months later.

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